The Southern Manifesto was a document written in 1956 by legislators in the United States Congress opposed to racial integration in public places, with Sen. Harry Flood Byrd, Sr. (D–VA) having helped author much of it. It was signed by politicians from the former Confederate States – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Only two of the signatories were Republicans: Joel T. Broyhill and Richard Harding "Dick" Poff of Virginia. Both represented districts where their political careers were almost entirely dependent on appealing to segregationist voters.
It was largely drawn up to counter the landmark Supreme Court 1954 ruling Brown v. Board of Education, which integrated public schools. All but twenty-eight of the 138 southern Democrat members of Congress signed this Southern Manifesto, including 19 of the majority Democrat senators. School segregation laws were some of the most enduring and best-known of the Jim Crow laws that characterized the American South at the time.
The Southern Manifesto was signed on a large mahogany conference table in Sen. John Stennis' office which Stennis used as his desk and referred to as "the flagship of the Confederacy." The table was used by segregationist and co-signer of the Southern Manifesto before, Sen. Richard Russell before his retirement. When Stennis retired in 1988, Sen. Joseph Biden took over Stennis' office, including the conference table. Biden praised the Mississippi segregationist who opposed anti-lynching legislation as "a man of character and courage". When Sen. Biden was elected vice president in 2008, Biden had "the flagship of the Confederacy" moved into the vice president's residence. Unsurprisingly, Biden would also tout his "civility" with segregationists James Eastland and Herman Talmadge during his 2020 presidential campaign. Eastland was known for deriding blacks as "inferior" while Talmadge was infamous for shutting down schools as governor of Georgia to prevent desegregation.
The document read as follows:
"DECLARATION OF CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLES
The unwarranted decision of the Supreme Court in the public school cases is now bearing the fruit always produced when men substitute naked power for established law.
The Founding Fathers gave us a Constitution of checks and balances because they realized the inescapable lesson of history that no man or group of men can be safely entrusted with unlimited power. They framed this Constitution with its provisions for change by amendment in order to secure the fundamentals of government against the dangers of temporary popular passion or the personal predilections of public officeholders.
We regard the decisions of the Supreme Court in the school cases as a clear abuse of judicial power. It climaxes a trend in the Federal Judiciary undertaking to legislate, in derogation of the authority of Congress, and to encroach upon the reserved rights of the States and the people.
The original Constitution does not mention education. Neither does the 14th Amendment nor any other amendment. The debates preceding the submission of the 14th Amendment clearly show that there was no intent that it should affect the system of education maintained by the States.
The very Congress which proposed the amendment subsequently provided for segregated schools in the District of Columbia.
When the amendment was adopted in 1868, there were 37 States of the Union. . . .
Every one of the 26 States that had any substantial racial differences among its people, either approved the operation of segregated schools already in existence or subsequently established such schools by action of the same law-making body which considered the 14th Amendment.
As admitted by the Supreme Court in the public school case (Brown v. Board of Education), the doctrine of separate but equal schools "apparently originated in Roberts v. City of Boston (1849), upholding school segregation against attack as being violative of a State constitutional guarantee of equality." This constitutional doctrine began in the North, not in the South, and it was followed not only in Massachusetts, but in Connecticut, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other northern states until they, exercising their rights as states through the constitutional processes of local self-government, changed their school systems.
In the case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 the Supreme Court expressly declared that under the 14th Amendment no person was denied any of his rights if the States provided separate but equal facilities. This decision has been followed in many other cases. It is notable that the Supreme Court, speaking through Chief Justice Taft, a former President of the United States, unanimously declared in 1927 in Lum v. Rice that the "separate but equal" principle is "within the discretion of the State in regulating its public schools and does not conflict with the 14th Amendment."
This interpretation, restated time and again, became a part of the life of the people of many of the States and confirmed their habits, traditions, and way of life. It is founded on elemental humanity and commonsense, for parents should not be deprived by Government of the right to direct the lives and education of their own children.
Though there has been no constitutional amendment or act of Congress changing this established legal principle almost a century old, the Supreme Court of the United States, with no legal basis for such action, undertook to exercise their naked judicial power and substituted their personal political and social ideas for the established law of the land.
This unwarranted exercise of power by the Court, contrary to the Constitution, is creating chaos and confusion in the States principally affected. It is destroying the amicable relations between the white and Negro races that have been created through 90 years of patient effort by the good people of both races. It has planted hatred and suspicion where there has been heretofore friendship and understanding.
Without regard to the consent of the governed, outside mediators are threatening immediate and revolutionary changes in our public schools systems. If done, this is certain to destroy the system of public education in some of the States.
With the gravest concern for the explosive and dangerous condition created by this decision and inflamed by outside meddlers:
We reaffirm our reliance on the Constitution as the fundamental law of the land.
We decry the Supreme Court's encroachment on the rights reserved to the States and to the people, contrary to established law, and to the Constitution.
We commend the motives of those States which have declared the intention to resist forced integration by any lawful means.
We appeal to the States and people who are not directly affected by these decisions to consider the constitutional principles involved against the time when they too, on issues vital to them may be the victims of judicial encroachment.
Even though we constitute a minority in the present Congress, we have full faith that a majority of the American people believe in the dual system of government which has enabled us to achieve our greatness and will in time demand that the reserved rights of the States and of the people be made secure against judicial usurpation.
We pledge ourselves to use all lawful means to bring about a reversal of this decision which is contrary to the Constitution and to prevent the use of force in its implementation.
In this trying period, as we all seek to right this wrong, we appeal to our people not to be provoked by the agitators and troublemakers invading our States and to scrupulously refrain from disorder and lawless acts."
It was signed by the following Senators:
- ALABAMA – Lister Hill, John Sparkman
- ARKANSAS – J. William Fulbright, John McClellan
- FLORIDA – Spessard Holland, George Smathers
- GEORGIA – Walter F. George, Richard Russell
- LOUISIANA – Allen J. Ellender, Russell Long
- MISSISSIPPI – James Eastland, John Stennis
- NORTH CAROLINA – Sam Ervin, William Kerr Scott
- SOUTH CAROLINA – Olin D. Johnston, Strom Thurmond
- TEXAS – Price Daniel, Sr.
- VIRGINIA – Harry F. Byrd, Absalom Willis Robertson
MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
- ALABAMA: Frank W. Boykin, George M. Grant, George W. Andrews, Kenneth A. Roberts, Albert Rains, Armistead I. Selden, Jr., Carl Elliott, Robert E. Jones, George Huddleston, Jr.
- ARKANSAS: E.C. Gathings, Wilbur D. Mills, James W. Trimble, Oren Harris, Brooks Hays, W.F. Norrell.
- FLORIDA: Charles E. Bennett, Robert L. F. Sikes, A.S. Herlong, Jr., Paul G. Rogers, James A. Haley, D.R. Matthews.
- GEORGIA: Prince H. Preston, John L. Pilcher, E.L. Forrester, John James Flynt, Jr., James C. Davis, Carl Vinson, Henderson Lanham, Iris F. Blitch, Phil M. Landrum, Paul Brown.
- LOUISIANA: Felix Edward Hébert, Hale Boggs, Edwin E. Willis, Overton Brooks, Otto Passman, James H. Morrison, Theo Thompson, George S. Long.
- MISSISSIPPI: Thomas G. Abernathy, Jamie L. Whitten, Frank E. Smith, John Bell Williams, Arthur Winstead, William M. Colmer.
- NORTH CAROLINA: Herbert C. Bonner, L. H. Fountain, Graham A. Barden, Carl T. Durham, F. Ertel Carlyle, Hugh Q. Alexander, Woodrow W. Jones, George A. Shuford.
- SOUTH CAROLINA: L. Mendel Rivers, John J. Riley, W.J. Bryan Dorn, Robert T. Ashmore, James P. Richards, John L. McMillan.
- TEXAS: Wright Patman, John Dowdy, Walter Rogers, 0. C. Fisher.
- TENNESSEE: James B. Frazier, Jr., Tom Murray, Jere Cooper, Clifford Davis.
- VIRGINIA: Edward J. Robeson, Jr., Porter Hardy, Jr., J. Vaughan Gary, Watkins M. Abbitt, William M. Tuck, Richard Harding Poff, Burr P. Harrison, Howard W. Smith, W. Pat Jennings, Joel T. Broyhill.
- Massive Resistance. Encyclopedia of Virginia. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- Segregationists. Equal Justice Initiative. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
- Alic, Haris (June 20, 2019). Senate Floor 1988: Joe Biden Praised Another Long-Time Segregationist, John Stennis, as ‘Man of Character and Courage’. Breitbart News. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
- Bowden, John (June 19, 2019). Biden cites 'civility' with segregationist senators: 'We got things done'. The Hill. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
- Brockell, Gillian (June 21, 2019). Three civil rights workers were missing. Sen. Eastland said it was fake news.. The Washington Post. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
- Cly,er, Adam (March 22, 2002). Herman Talmadge, Georgia Senator and Governor, Dies at 88. The New York Times. Retrieved April 17, 2021.